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HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB OC'ed Video Card Review

HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB OC'ed Video Card Review

We got a sneak peak of it at Computex, but today we get to check out the hybrid water cooled HIS Radeon R9 290X 4GB video card. Let's take a look!

@ShawnBakerTW
Shawn Baker
Published Thu, Jul 31 2014 5:10 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:33 PM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: HIS Digital

Introduction and Package

Introduction of the HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB

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VIEW GALLERY - 42 IMAGES

During Computex 2014, we got a chance to visit HIS at the Hyatt to see what the company had going on. When it came to the video card side of things, there wasn't too much; especially since everything that was launching at the time was already sitting comfortable in my office waiting to be tested.

Saying that, though, HIS did have one special video card that grabbed our attention. The HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB, and while it was not ready, it was due to come out in the following months. The big feature behind this card was the Hybrid cooler that utilized both a standard heat sink fan setup, along with an all-in-one (AIO) water cooling solution.

Any time you strap water cooling to a video card, you have our attention, and this was no different here. The addition of water cooling brings with it lower temperature numbers, which of course means that companies are able to throw higher clock speeds through the card. The addition of water, though, means that you can also give the card quite a healthy bump in terms of voltage, and still have the core temperature kept under control.

While video cards with water blocks aren't too uncommon, the fact that they require a full on water cooling setup means that they're a turn off for some people. With the quality of AIO water cooling solutions getting better and better, the desire for a setup that uses them is so much higher.

With such a strong looking cooler and a high-end card, we find ourselves thinking of only one thing to do with it. Overclock it! Before we find out just what we get out of the card, we've got to take a closer look at it.

Package - What comes inside the box

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Looking at the box, you can see the overall design is pretty similar to previous IceQ based cards we've seen before. This one is of course a lot bigger due to the fact that it sports a large AIO water cooling system inside, which is mentioned on the front of the box. Across the bottom, you can see we've got the model number, along with some of the main features, which include PCIe 3.0, 4GB GDDR5, 4K Support and HDMI. Across the top of the box, you can see the brand and the iPower logo.

Turning the box over, you can see that HIS goes into detail on some of the main features that are being offered. A lot of these we've seen before, including the cooler and quieter logos and the IceQ technology. The big new one here is the Hybrid System, which makes note of the optimized cooler.

You can see a bit of information on the iPower features, which bring Full Solid State Capacitors and 6 Dynamic Phase Control PWM IC, while across the bottom, we see some of the main features that relate to the AMD core itself.

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While you may think that the card comes with a larger than usual bundle, moving inside, you won't see too much out of the ordinary. You can see we've got the normal HIS envelop, which brings with it a driver CD, manual and case sticker. Here you can also see some screws, along with some washers, which are used to install the radiator.

Along with this, you can also see that HIS has chosen to include a mouse pad in the bundle, as an extra. To be honest, if you're buying such a high-end video card, you'll more than likely have a great mouse pad already. The good news is, though, that the overall quality of this mouse pad is quite good.

Video Card Details and Specifications

Close up with the HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB

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Moving away from the box and bundle and onto the card itself, you can see that the overall setup is of course quite different to any of the IceQ coolers we've seen in the past thanks to the addition of the radiator.

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Taking a look at the radiator first, you can see that we've got a single 120mm fan setup with a small reservoir sitting at the bottom with two tubes coming out of it. Here we can also see a single Molex connector that runs from the actual video card, along with another cables that is plugged into one of the power sources on the card itself.

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Taking a look at the other half of the card, you can see that we've got a single fan on the right side of the card with a large shroud going under the top. Under the shroud, we find the water block, which also has the pump that helps push the water throughout the radiator. While the fan will assist in the cooling of the core, the main thing it does here is cool the components around the core, including the memory.

Since the water block concentrates on the GPU core, the fan combined with heat sinks is able to keep the other areas cool. The overall design isn't unusual, and we've seen similar setups before.

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Taking a look around the rest of the card, you can see that power has been upgraded with the use of two 8-Pin PCIe power connectors, instead of the standard single 6-Pin and 8-Pin PCIe setup that reference cards see. Staying across the top, but moving closer to the front, you can see we've got a typical setup here with the BIOS switch and no CrossFire connectors, due to the fact that they're not required on the R9 290 series.

For a card like this, the chances are you wouldn't move past a CrossFire setup of two cards, though, due to the fact that every card needs a spot for the radiator. Moving past two is going to become quite an interesting task, especially if you opted for a 120mm or 2x 120mm AIO water cooling solution on your CPU.

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Finishing up with the I/O side of things, you can see we've got the standard R9 290X setup, which sees two Dual-Link DVI-D connectors, along with a HDMI and DisplayPort connector. Personally speaking, I would've loved to have seen HIS opt for the setup that drops one of the Dual-Link DVI ports and swaps the full size DisplayPort connector out for two Mini DisplayPort connectors.

Specifications

As you'd expect, HIS has taken the time to overclock the IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB. Out of the box, a reference card that is clocked at reference speeds, will see a core clock of 1000MHz, while the 4GB of GDDR5 will come in at 1250MHz or 5000MHz QDR.

Out of the box, HIS has pushed the core up to a nice round 1100MHz, and also chosen to attack the memory with a really strong 1500MHz or 6000MHz QDR. This is a really strong overclock out of the box and is going to bring with it a nice performance boost. Of course, we're not so interested in the out of the box clocks - instead, we want to see just what kind of performance we're able to get ourselves.

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Getting into the overclocking side of things, we find ourselves bumping the clocks up and running 3DMark to see at what point the system is no longer stable. Looking above, you can see that we pushed the core up to 1160MHz, which is 160MHz up on the reference clock speed AMD offer. As for the 4GB of GDDR4, that is pushed up to 1675MHz which translates to 6700MHz QDR, a massive 1700MHz QDR up on the reference clock.

These are some impressive numbers and should bring with it an excellent performance boost. As for how these compare, the recently looked at HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo 4GB managed to achieve 1100MHz on the core and 5700MHz QDR on the memory.

Test System Setup & FPS Numbers Explained

Test System Setup

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS and Corsair.

We've got a bunch of video cards in our graphs here today with the focus being the higher-end area of the market, which is an area we've covered quite strongly lately. Saying that, from the AMD side of things, we do start off with the lower-end HIS R9 270X IceQ X2 Turbo Boost 2GB OC.

Moving up from the R9 270X, we've got the Sapphire R9 280X 3GB Vapor-X OC, HIS R9 290 4GB IceQ X2 Turbo, along with the reference R9 290X 4GB running in "Uber Mode". Finally, we finish off the AMD side of things with the HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo 4GB that we overclocked to 1100MHz on the core and 5700MHz QDR on the memory.

As for the other side of the fence, we've got two NVIDIA cards included in our graphs here today. One is the reference GTX 770 2GB and the other is the recently looked at ASUS GTX 780 ROG Poseidon Platinum 3GB OC.

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Why are some graphs incomplete?

Adding new game benchmarks is a long, tedious and time consuming task as every video card has to be re-tested in those new benchmarks. Because of that reason we have always just evaluated our benchmark line up every six months. To stay up to date and current with the latest benchmarks and games available, we've changed our approach to adding new benchmarks.

Our benchmark line up will progress and be updated as newer more intensive games with benchmarks comes to light. While this will mean that initially you may only see a single video card in those particular graphs, as the weeks go on and we test more and more video cards, the results will grow quickly. This will help keep our benchmark line up as up to date as possible as we introduce and remove games on a constant basis.

Benchmarks - 3DMark

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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Starting off with 3DMark 11, it comes as no surprise that our heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB performs very well, coming out ahead of everything else at both the Performance and Extreme preset.

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

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Looking at Fire Strike, you can see some awesome performance out of the heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB. Compared to the other HIS R9 290X 4GB we've got here, you can see that the standard score is nearly 1300 points higher.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Sky Diver & Catzilla

3DMark Sky Diver

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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Designed for mid-range cards, you can see that R9 290X 4GB offerings here sit quite close to each other. While the water cooled version of course comes out ahead, it's clear that Sky Diver isn't able to make full use of the performance that's on offer here from the HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB.

Catzilla

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3

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Catzilla performance is great at both resolutions, and you can see that the heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB manages to get a nice performance increase over the other R9 290X 4GB, which is also overclocked quite strongly.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven & Phantasy Star Online 2

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

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Heaven performance is fantastic at both resolutions. You can see that the heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB has no problem coming out ahead of the other setups here.

While NVIDIA cards tend to favor Heaven due to the heavy emphasis on tessellation, the sheer performance that is on offer from these R9 290X 4GB cards see them come out a decent chunk ahead, especially the water cooled HIS offering.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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PSO2 performance has always made great use of AMD overclocks and here is no different. You can see that overall performance is massive, and we see that the heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB manages to perform strong against the other also strongly overclocked HIS R9 290X 4GB.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2 & Just Cause 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Lost Planet 2 performance is strong across the board, and you can see playing the game at any resolution isn't an issue. Saying that, you do see that the ASUS GTX 780 3GB we've got here does manage to come out ahead at all resolutions.

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Again, looking at something a bit older, like Just Cause 2, you can see that the performance of the heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB is extremely strong, like our other high-end offerings here.

We're able to play smoothly at all resolutions, including the highest. This strong 136 FPS average is great news for people looking at those new 1440P 144Hz gaming monitors.

Benchmarks -Metro Last Light & Nexuiz

Metro Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Metro Last Light, while slightly older, continues to be extremely taxing on systems. While you can see our heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB manages to come out ahead of all our other setups, at the highest resolution, you can see that it falls short of the 60 FPS average we're always-on the hunt for. Of course, we're only a single FPS away from it, so we couldn't get much closer.

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Nexuiz continues to be one of the most intensive games we have thanks to being based on the taxing CryEngine 3.While 2560 x 1600 isn't an option on any of our setups, you can see that the heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB is the only card that's able to break the 60 FPS barrier at 1920 x 1200.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2 & Sleeping Dogs

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Sniper Elite V2 performance is strong across the board, and you can see again that gaming at any resolution here isn't going to be a problem. At the highest resolution, the heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB manages to score a solid 100 FPS average, something none of our other setups here are able to do.

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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While Sleeping Dogs is one of our newer games, the optimization on the game is extremely strong. At the highest resolution, we manage to achieve a solid 135 FPS on our heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB. Just like we mentioned earlier, for people who are looking at these newer 144Hz monitors, this is great news.

Benchmarks - Hitman Absolution & Tomb Raider

Hitman Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Thanks to an FPS wall that is hit quite easily on higher-end cards at the lower resolutions, you can see that our high-end AMD setups perform very close to each other with really nothing more than a bit of fluctuation being seen between them. With the newer high Hz monitors coming out, we'd really love to see AMD fix this with a possible driver update.

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Tomb Raider performance is solid, and you can see the OC'ed HIS card is ahead of the 60 FPS average we want at all resolutions. At the highest resolution, you can see the 64 FPS average is accompanied by a really strong 51 FPS minimum.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite & Battlefield 4

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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BioShock Infinite number look good across the board with 60 FPS not being an issue at all resolutions. You can see that the NVIDIA based ASUS GTX 780 3GB does manage to outperform the AMD offerings at all resolutions, though.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

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Battlefield 4 numbers are solid across the board, and you can see playing at any resolution isn't going to be a problem. Looking above, you can clearly see that the game favors our AMD offerings, as the heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB scores extremely strong against the ASUS GTX 780 ROG Poseidon Platinum 3GB at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - GRID Autosport

Grid Autosport

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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GRID Autosport sees solid performance out of the heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB. Due to a FPS wall that is present on the R9 290X cards, though, you can see little difference between the setups.

As we've mentioned before, we're hoping this is something that AMD fix in coming driver releases.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF Testing

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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Turning on AA and AF, you can see like all our other setups here, the heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB falls short of the 60 FPS number we're on the hunt for at both resolutions. Saying that, looking above, you can see that our Hybrid R9 290X 4GB card from HIS is the only one able to break into the 50 FPS realm.

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Looking above, you can see that while GRID Autosport manages to offer playable FPS at both resolutions, thanks to that FPS wall, there's little difference seen between our higher-end offerings at the lower resolution, and also little difference at the higher one, when comparing our two R9 290X 4GB cards.

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Sleeping Dogs sees some great performance at 1920 x 1200 with a 5% lead over the other HIS R9 290X 4GB, which is also overclocked quite strongly. At the highest resolution, you can see like our other setups, we fall short of the playable 60 FPS number that we like to see.

Benchmarks - 4K - 3840 x 2160 Testing

4K - 3840 x 2160 Testing

4K monitors are the next step for gamers demanding the best in image quality. With 4x the pixels of a standard 1920 x 1080 monitor (meaning 4x the intensity); 3840 x 2160 brings with it a new level of intensity to video cards.

Wanting to make sure that you're buying the right video card for a monitor that offers such a large resolution, we test the latest and greatest video cards in a couple of benchmarks to give you an idea of just what kind of setup you require.

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Cranking up the resolution, you can see our heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB manages to get a nice lead over the other R9 290X 4GB, falling just short of 1400 points.

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Running at 4K, you can see some solid performance with an excellent 76 FPS average from the Hybrid R9 290X 4GB.

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While our setups fall short of the 60 FPS number we want at 4K, the bump in performance from our heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB compared to our other overclocked R9 290X is appreciated.

We're just 2 FPS away from the FPS mark, but the extra MHz has helped push our minimum up slightly, falling just short of 50 FPS. With these numbers, we'd say that gaming wouldn't be an issue here.

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Looking at Tomb Raider, you can see that the game is extremely taxing at this resolution. While the 29 FPS minimum isn't too bad, the fact that our average is only 36 FPS means that the game just isn't going to be a pleasure to play.

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GRID Autosport sees some extra FPS thanks to the extra MHz from our overclock. With this strong minimum, we find ourselves pretty happy with the 57 FPS average, which will result in a smooth gaming experience.

Temperature & Sound Testing

Temperature Test

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run of 3DMark Vantage at the Performance preset.

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Sitting at 72c during load, you can see that the heavily overclocked HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB scores perfectly in line with the MSI R9 290X Lightning.

While that card managed a slightly higher core clock, the memory clock was significantly lower. Looking at the idle, though, you can see our HIS card is sitting much lower.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter, we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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At 61.1dB, the noise level is significantly lower than the MSI Lightning, which sits towards the top of the pack at 67.6dB.

The idle noise number is also much more appealing, coming in nearly 9dB lower on the HIS offering.

Power Consumption Testing

Power Consumption Test

Using our PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01--or "Power Thingy" as it has quickly become known as to our readers--we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated video cards installed. Keep in mind that it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember, though. While our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10 percent more. We test at the exact same stage every time, so tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum--only an SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items will result in a higher draw.

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Sitting towards the higher-end of 500 watts, it comes as no surprise that the HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB is a power hungry card that requires even more power when overclocking.

If you're buying a video card like this, though, we're sure that you've got a power supply that is sitting in the 750+ Watt range.

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts

The HIS IceQ Radeon R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB video card is just a beast, and if I'm completely honest, that conclusion was made when first seeing the card at Computex in June - the only difference is now it's been confirmed. What's not to like? Well, probably the price tag, which isn't available yet. We don't doubt that the HIS IceQ R9 290X iPower Hybrid iTurbo 4GB is going to carry with it quite the premium.

The one question that has to be answered is, will the added price be worth it? When you're talking about cards like this, it really comes down to personal opinion. To some, the price of the R9 290X 4GB is just too much, so the added price of these premium models just seem ridiculous. You could argue that the only people who should look at this kind of card are those that want to overclock. However, to be honest, the card should appeal to people who don't want to overclock as well.

The clocks out of the box that HIS is offering are amazing. They've evened out the core to 1100MHz and then pushed the 4GB of GDDR5 to a massive 6000MHz QDR. The hybrid cooling system then manages to run these clocks at lower noise levels then many coolers. What isn't shown in our graphs today is the fact that at idle the core runs at 35c and at load just 66c when running at its out of the box speed. What makes those numbers impressive, though, is the huge out of the box numbers that are offered by HIS.

Would have we liked to see a larger bundle? Well, no one is going to deny that they wouldn't like to have seen more, but throwing in useless items that drive up the price more doesn't interest people. Instead, the highlight of the bundle is the video card. The inclusion of the mouse pad is a nice little extra.

The kind of person this video card is perfect for is someone who wants a fast out of the box video card that doesn't put out a ton of heat or noise. Sure, you could fire up your favorite overclocking software and push the clocks further, but thanks to HIS putting the time into finding a strong out of the box overclock, it's not a requirement.

This card is just badass, though, and you'd be hard pressed to find people who would just turn away and not want something like this. At the absolute top of the R9 290X pyramid, you have two really strong options. This HIS offering and the Lightning version from MSI. The latter version, while great for consumers, has a clear focus on the most extreme overclockers. The HIS offering runs at lower noise levels, idles at a lower temperature and offers stronger out of the box overclocks.

If you don't have R9 295X2 kind of money, but still have a decent amount of coin to spend on a PC, this is the kind of video card you should be using if you were to ask for a fast single GPU based PC that will run cool and quiet. Paired with a good AIO cooling solution for your CPU, you've just got yourself a beautiful gaming PC that will no doubt be the envy of all your friends.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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